The 2nd annual Crypto Design Challenge, hosted at Paradiso, was the conclusion of a shout out to artists, designers, activists, visionaries and researchers to create new conceptualizations of the Deep Web: the mysterious and presumed hidden web, inaccessible through Google and other search engines. However, the ceremony was a larger culmination of encouraging discussions and reflections on the most contemporary issues in media and digital culture.

Of the 38 entries submitted, the selected 15 nominations were beautifully displayed along the second floor gallery (a detailed list can be viewed here). Each project uniquely engaged with the conference’s central
theme, and exposed viewers to challenge their preconceived notions of the Deep Web. Of note, two of the submissions came from the Crypto Design Challenge Workshop hosted
earlier that month. Particular congratulations to go Yinan Song and her project Deeply for winning the Jury Award, headed by Mieke Gerritzen, and Julia Janssen’s The Bank of Online Humanity (see image), for winning the Audience Award. See also Winners Crypto Design Challenge 2016.

Along with the projects, the organizers invited a diverse host of speakers to come and reflect on the current state of media culture and politics. Going along with the Deep Web
challenge, the speakers all explored on issues of cryptography, and the dangers around the rise of digital surveillance and data collection. As a way to situate this discussion, the attendants were greeted, tongue and cheek, by media professor Marc Tuters as he read aloud Facebook’s ‘Terms of Service’.

From there, a subtle theme underlying all the speakers was an attempt to tackle what is commonly referred to as the privacy paradox: the condition where privacy is highly valued, yet people make minimal sacrifices to insure it. Therefore, from discussions on the emergence of reputation economies, to detailed analyses of the challenges of email encryption and one emphatic and theatrical reading of the ‘Data Prevention Manifesto’, the conference explored this phenomenon, detailing the underlying mechanics of encryption and privacy, while also stressing the importance individual action as a
response. Together, these voices resonated with the wide diversity of attendants who shared a common interest – to better understand privacy awareness and practice digital
literacy. As issues of surveillance, encryption, anonymity and privacy continue to dominate this digital century, broadening the dialogue and cultivating a participating online citizenry will become increasingly important.

The Crypto Design Challenge was initiated by MOTI, Museum of the Image in Breda in 2015. This year’s edition is organized in collaboration with the Institute of Network Cultures and the Citizen Data Lab, both based at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, Faculty of Digital Media and Creative Industries. Special recognition also goes to Jan Dietvorst from Paradiso, Loes Bogers from Makerslab and Stefan Schäfer, for helping successfully organize the event.

* Note: This article, originally titled “
Reflecting on the Crypto Design Challenge: Privacy and the Challenge of Digital Literacy” by Nicola Romagnoli was modified for publication on this site on Nov 23d 2017. The original article can be found here.

Image credits: Sebastiaan ter Burg, Yinan Song, Julia Janssen

Bank of Online Humanity-lowres from julia janssen on Vimeo.